Etiquette of Japanese Business Cards: Meishi

The Japanese call business cards “meishi” [pronounced "MAY-SHEE"].Japanese Business Card Etiquette

Expectations of Your Card

  • Foreigners are expected to come with their own bilingual business cards, meaning theses cards have two languages on them, your native language on one side with Japanese on the other.
  • Invest only in high quality business cards. They are considered a reflection on you and your image.
  • Never give out a damaged, folded or wrinkled card.
  • To be truly polite, your card should be removed from a leather or professional business card holder.
  • Never place a stack of your cards on the table and offer others to take a card from the stack.
  • Stand up when exchanging Japanese business cards.

When to Exchange Cards - Meishi Are Only Given Out at First Introductions

  • Business cards are exchanged at the beginning of a meeting.
  • Be liberal when handing out your Japanese business cards. This is looked upon as a friendly act, and done much more frequently in Japan than in most other parts of the world.
  • Always carry more than an adequate number of bilingual business cards on you. You never want to leave someone out while exchanging cards.

How to Exchange Meishi

    • Always present and accept cards with two hands
    • and offer a slight bow while grasping the Japanese business cards. This is considered a humble gesture.
    • Present your card lower than your counterpart when they have higher status.
    • Visibly acknowledge their card, accept their card and read it before taking your eyes off of it. Read the English side, first but definitely turn to the Japanese side, this shows that you respect their culture.
    • Take special care in handling the cards as they are considered very important documents. Do not deface or damage the cards in any way. Never write on meishi.
    • Carry a proper case for your business cards and let it be seen that you are preserving their business card. Implement this technique on any occasion that Japanese business cards are presented, even if you are not sitting down in a meeting.
    • NEVER stick the Japanese business cards in your pant pockets as that would communicate that their business cards are unimportant and you do not value them.
    • Never admit to losing a meishi.

In a Business Meeting

Exchanging business cards during a meeting is part of the business protocol. It is part of a formal introduction. The business meeting will not begin until this procedure is complete.

        1. Walk to the most senior person in the other company, introduce yourself, and offer your business card, making sure that you use both hands and bow slightly as you extend the card.
        2. Make sure the Japanese side of the card is facing up when presenting your translated Japanese business cards.
        3. Tell them your company name, your position and your name.
        4. The person will extend the same greeting to you.
        5. Visibly acknowledge their card, accept their card and read it before taking your eyes off it.
        6. Repeat the process moving to the next most senior person. The group you're meeting will most likely line up by rank to make this easier for you.
        7. It is proper to arrange the business cards in front of you on the table, in the order of the participants seating positions, this will also help you remember everyone’s name.
        8. Leave the meishi in front of you for the duration of the meeting.
        9. If someone comes in late — wait until after the meeting and then formally introduce yourself.
        10. Never present cards casually or slide them to someone across the table.
        11. When a business meeting comes to a close, carefully store the Japanese business cards in a card case, or briefcase.
        12. Japanese professionals keep their acquired business cards in meishi binders or cases for many years. You should never dispose of a card unless you're absolutely sure you'll never see the person again.


* Japanese people are known by their surname (family name) and not their first name. For a man, this is then followed by "San" which is used in the sense of "Mister". Never refer to Japanese persons you are meeting by their first name.


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